January 1 of 2009 brings with it the International Year of Astronomy, a worldwide celebration commemorating Galileo Galilei’s first astronomical observation through a telescope. 135 nations are collaborating to promote astronomy and its contribution to society and culture, with events at regional, national, and global levels, to bring the Universe closer to more people on Earth. Events and activities will take place over the coming 365 days and beyond. How can you participate? Here’s a list of several IYA activities events taking place during the next year. If you or a group you are affiliated with are hosting an IYA event, feel free to post it in the comments section. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) has been launched by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). With so many events, the IYA is sure to make “The Universe, yours to discover.”
365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. This one is near and dear to my heart, as I’ve been part of the group of great folks working behind the scenes to launch this project. This project will publish one podcast per day, for all 365 days of 2009. The podcast episodes are written, recorded and produced by people around the world. And what great topics people are submitting! Tips for using your first telescope, celebrating 5 years of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Top Ten Reasons Stargazing is Cool, and the link between space and beer are just a few of the titles from the first few weeks. Listen every day, and if you’d like to participate by contributing a podcast of your own (less than 10 minutes in length) check out the 365 Days of Astronomy website on how to record and submit a podcast. You’ll be hearing my voice a few times during the year (in fact, listen to the January 1 podcast!) as well as the voices of Fraser Cain and Ian O’Neill, too, and many others. So you don’t miss a single one of the 365 podcasts, subscribe via RSS, or iTunes. And here’s the 365 Days of Astronomy trailer, reminding you to listen every day.
Opening Ceremonies: Many nations are holding their own Opening Ceremonies in January and February, showing their dedication to the Year. The official opening ceremonies take place in France on Jan. 15 and 16, but is not open to the public. Check out this website for opening ceremonies in your country.
Solar Physics. Don’t be surprised to see telescopes on the streets on New Year’s Day. The IYA2009 Solar Physics Group have been busy planning a grand worldwide campaign, with over 30 countries involved at more than 150 venues, which will see amateur stargazers set up their telescopes on pavements as well as in science centers, letting passers-by observe the Sun using special safety equipment.
The Cosmic Diary is an example of a global activity occurring during 2009, with the release of its official website on New Year’s Day. The project concerns the daily lives of full-time astronomers. More than 50 bloggers, professionals from over 35 countries and employed by organisations such as ESO, NASA, ESA and JAXA have already begun producing content, writing about their lives, the work they conduct and the challenges they face. The public can see what being an astronomer is really like, and how ground-breaking research is conducted.
100 Hours of Astronomy: April 2-5, 2009. Includes a wide range of public outreach activities such as live webcasts, observing events and more. One of the key goals of 100 Hours of Astronomy is to have as many people as possible look through a telescope, just as Galileo did for the first time 400 years ago. Check out 100 Hours of Astronomy’s website.
From Earth to the Universe. This is exhibition that will bring large-scale astronomical images to a wide public audience in non-traditional venues such as public parks and gardens, art museums, shopping malls and metro stations. Over 30 countries around the world are currently in the development phase of FETTU projects, many with multiple locations. Some 15 countries plan to begin FETTU exhibitions within the first month of 2009, ranging in size from 25 to over 100 images on display. FETTU will be introduced to the global community at the Opening Ceremony at UNESCO headquarters in January 2009. Find out more at their website.
The World at Night. Brings to the public a collection of stunning photographs and time-lapse videos of the world’s landmarks with the sky in the background. The World at Night is preparing more than 30 exhibitions and educational events around the world.
Dark Skies Awareness. One of IYA2009’s aims is to raise awareness of light pollution, and how the beauty of the night sky is progressively being drowned out, particularly over urban areas. The project Dark Skies Awareness is tackling these issues head-on in a practical, inclusive manner. One way in which it is doing this is by holding star-counting events, where the public are encouraged to see how many stars in a particular area of the sky are actually visible from their location. When compared with data from truly dark sites, the results are often very surprising! The “How Many Stars” event will run from January 2009.
A list of event highlights is available on the official IYA2009 website. From there it is also possible to link to the different country websites, or National Nodes, responsible for organizing local events in the many participating countries.
IYA2009 wants to involve the public at many events, and amateur astronomers are organizing events. Known for their enthusiasm, this army of helpers is growing every day, preparing to promote astronomy in a stunning variety of ways. In fact, so many thousands of people across the globe are already involved, they have formed the world’s largest ever astronomy network. Please feel free to add info in the comments section for any events you know of. Thanks!